Deaton, McCaskill, Palin: More evidence of smart people acting stupidly

Thursday, August 13, 2009 | 1:45 p.m. CDT; updated 4:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last week’s screed was such a success (it even led to a pleasant e-mail exchange with Congressman Luetkemeyer’s spokesman) that I’m tempted to double up. As usual, I yield to temptation. So here is Chapter Two of Smart People Acting Stupidly:

It pains me to report that my boss, the handsome and intelligent Brady Deaton, heads this week’s list. How can that be, you ask? Chancellor Deaton has fired Norm Stewart.

He didn’t put it that crassly, of course. Instead, he issued a bland little statement stressing how much he appreciated Norm’s contribution to the $1 billion fundraising campaign and what a loyal alum the Old Coach is. Norm hasn’t been quite so bland. Here’s what he told Joe Walljasper of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

“It’s almost comical. If you’re in business, you take care of your assets. So I guess to whoever’s in charge of their business, I’m not considered an asset.”

During the fundraising campaign, he was considered enough of an asset to draw a salary for six years, beginning at $130,000 and going up to $132,600, according to the university Web site. I’m guessing that, as the most visible icon of MU athletics, he earned it. The drive reached its goal and Norm is out of a job, again.

Fiscally, I suppose that makes sense. But surely Brady and his advisers remember the turmoil that afflicted the university’s athletic program and even the institution itself the last time it parted company with the Old Coach. The wounds took years to heal.

Questions of loyalty and fundraising prowess aside, why would you want to risk a replay? This time, Norm says he was even willing to donate his salary back to the university, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. From here, that looks like a pretty good deal. If he hasn’t gone away mad, I’d take him up on it. I’d also put him back on the air for Tiger basketball games.


Another public relations debacle — this one with reverberations reaching the governor’s office and legislature — is the decision by the geniuses who run the state employees’ pension system to award more than $150,000 in bonuses to staff members. Last year, you may recall, those staffers got $460,000 in bonuses while the investments they oversee lost one-third of their value.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press reports, “The payments originally had been scheduled for June but were delayed because of concerns they would be portrayed poorly.”

How could they be portrayed otherwise? The governor says he’s disappointed. The legislature, which reacted to last year’s bonuses by slashing $300,000 from the office’s budget, is yet to be heard from.

I gigged our congressman last week for voting against the sensible and successful Cash for Clunkers program. In our e-mail conversation, his aide asked whether I’d say the same about Sen. Claire McCaskill if she also voted against expanding it. Well, she did. So I do. (Of those who represent Boone County in Congress, only Sen. Kit Bond, who seems to make more sense as he nears retirement, voted my way on that issue.)

Finally, what can we say about Sarah Palin? Her rant about the nonexistent “death panels” in health care reform forced President Obama himself to respond. But does she really fit the description of a smart person acting stupidly? Or is she a clever person acting cynically? I’d put Rush Limbaugh, for example, in the latter category.

Is she that ill-informed, or is she that cynical? We report; you decide.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Tracy Greever-Rice August 13, 2009 | 4:34 p.m.

two out of three is not too bad.

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